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Monday, March 24, 2008

The Consequences

The war in Iraq has consequences. That sentence may seem to be a statement of the obvious, but it never seemed to have occurred to the neocons who started this thing. Their entire plan for invading Iraq seems like a plan for a bank robbery from a gangster movie -- "In and out and nobody gets hurt." Donald Rumsfeld infamously assured us that he doubted the whole thing would last six months, let alone six weeks.

It's been five years.

As the war drags on and on and on, the consequences build. Our economy is a burning wreck, our reputation in the world is that of money-hungry liars, our dead number nearly 4,000, and our military is stretched beyond the breaking point. Of course, there are consequences for other nations -- most notably Iraq. And, contrary to what you might've been told, people actually live in Iraq. Some of those people work for us.

Associated Press:

Ali Qassim has three pieces of shrapnel lodged in his left eye and metal shards scattered elsewhere in his body.

Lingering in a private rest home in Jordan, he believes the wounds from his service with the U.S. military in Iraq entitle him to a fresh start in America, where doctors and donations might be able to restore his eyesight.

The 23-year-old Iraqi interpreter has pinned high hopes on a new U.S. special resettlement program that will make it easier for Iraqis working for Americans in Iraq to get U.S. visas without a referral from the U.N. refugee agency.

Advocacy and lawmakers have criticized Washington's record of admitting Iraqis into the United States. They say the Bush administration has a moral obligation to Iraqis — especially those who have worked with U.S. troops — but only a tiny fraction have made it into America.

"Tiny fraction" is about the best way to put it. "Microscopic" might be another. The latest figures I found tell us that, as of May 2007, less than 500 Iraqis had settled in the US.

The AP piece goes on to tell us that a new Defense Authorization bill allows "up to 5,000 Iraqis to receive special immigrant visas each year for the next five years." We're also told this is a "tenfold increase" from the previous limit of 500 a year. But, with less than 500 settled during the whole damned shootin' match, the annual upper limit is already entirely theoretical.

But back to the consequences. Let's add to this pathetic figure of 500 iraqis the actual number of refugees from this war. According to Refugees International, one in five Iraqis are displaced. That's five million.

...Over 2.4 million vacated their homes for safer areas within Iraq, up to 1.5 million were living in Syria, and over 1 million refugees were inhabiting Jordan, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and Gulf States. Most Iraqis are determined to be resettled to Europe or North America, and few consider return to Iraq an option. Iraqis have no legal work options in most host countries and are increasingly desperate and in need of humanitarian assistance. They face challenges in finding housing, obtaining food, and have trouble accessing host countries’ health and education systems. Their resources depleted, small numbers of Iraqis have returned to Iraq in the past few months – between 28,000-60,000 people – but Iraq’s struggling government recently warned that it can’t accommodate large numbers of returns. Most of those who returned were subsequently displaced again.

Kind of makes our promise of 5,000 visas a year look like crap, doesn't it? And that's assuming that the history of the program has nothing to do with the future and all of those promised visas will be granted. It also helps to explain foreign interference in Iraq. All of the neighboring countries are dealing with the problem we've created. With President Bush making it absolutely clear that he'll never end the occupation -- and the resulting refugee crisis -- it's hard to blame other nations for trying to end it themselves.

Those five thousand annual visas aren't going to make a dent. And, even then, no one believes we'll hand out even those. It's tempting to say that handing out 5,000 visas a year is the very least we can do, but history would prove that statement wrong. We're already doing as little as we can get away with and that's somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 a year -- in the face of 5 million. The very least we can do is what's already being done.

It'd be nice if the question were "What's the best we can do?" But that's never going to happen. We've gotten a lot of innocent people into this mess and we're unwilling and unable to deal with the consequences.

Those damned consequences. Who could've seen them coming? Certainly not the neocons and those fooled by their lies, just everyone else in the world. Luckily for us, the US doesn't have to pay the worst of them.

Unluckily for Iraqis, they do.


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